What Is The Back Story

I did not grow up with Peter Pan…

Wendy - PirateUntil I was in my 40’s I had never seen anything about Peter or Wendy. I had not read the book, seen the movie, or attended the Broadway show depicting Never Never Land. I vaguely knew the story line, but I probably knew more about “Lost Horizon” (by James Hilton) than I knew about Peter Pan. A decade or two ago we watched a Disney type movie called “Hook” and I’m sure I fell asleep – sitting for two hours seldom entices me to stay awake! (Even at the Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera.)

“Hook” made no sense. My wife and kids try to tell me what was going as it connected to the history of Peter Pan. I confess, I did not know the back story.

Often that is the crux of the matter. Most stories told of a person’s history comes in many parts. To understand a particular portion of time, one probably needs to know what leads the character to this crucible. Maybe it is like the friar witnessing the untimely death of several people on an Inca rope bridge in Thornton Wilder’s novel, “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.” I remember the story decently as we had to read it in High School and write reports about it. The friar wants to know the back story of the lives lost in this tragic moment, and begins to research what brought them all together at such a time of chance. This was Wilder’s second novel and won him a Pulitzer prize in 1928.

(Note to self: I wonder if it would be a good thing to read all the books that won a Pulitzer?)

Other than a remarkable line describing Peter, one must know the back story to make the connection. My son does this so well in his book EleanorEleanorThose of us who know Jason and our immediate family pretty well can probably find the clues that paint a portion of his back story.

“Hook” tells a portion of Peter Pan’s life. He is now grown, married and with kids of his own. A career as a corporate raider. When his son is describing Peter’s job to Aunt Wendy, she turns to him and says, “So, Peter, you’ve become a pirate!”

Undoubtedly, the back story revolves around a young kid who never wants to grow up. A pirate name Captain Hook is his nemesis from an earlier point of the story. In his fantasy Never Never Land, kids are kids forever. When you leave this land you revert to a normal life, and aging is the result. This happens to Peter, I guess (I still have not read the story!). He begins to age and life begins to happen normally.

When you learn the back story, you question, “How did he ever become a pirate?”

Somehow, I grew up in a normal life. Peter Pan was not in my vocabulary. I was born just 10 years after the ending of WWII. We had never seen such worldwide devastation. Millions upon millions killed – the numbers will never be known. Our future becomes the space program, Cold War, Korean Conflict, Vietnam. I am blessed to grow up with loving parents, great siblings, and exciting family living all over the place! My reading enticement revolved around the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, seldom a comic book. For me, Saturday morning was not a strong cartoon experience, rather it was Tarzan, Bomba, and other adventure stories. (Everything was in black and white!)

Often, we made what 2014-08-05 09.34.22we needed instead of running to the store (I remember grandparents bringing some “down” to the house in Seabrook, along with appropriate fabric, and before you knew it we were stuffing our own pillows in the yard!) Imagination was strong as we played Cowboys and Indians, War, and 50 years ago I wrestled alligators in the swimming pool and killed them with my favorite red rubber knife bought at the 5&10 store. I seldom went anywhere without this knife! As you can tell, I still own it…

Strong family and neighborhood ties. Great childhood experiences. Good, solid church foundation. It was safe to ride our bikes all day long and only come home when hungry, or at dinner time.

That’s my back story. I can see myself today in what my history reveals.

If you meet me today you will not know my back story. Does it matter? Perhaps.

Consider Thomas Alva Edison. We know him by his end products – electric light bulb, power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures. His creations advanced telecommunications, almost by light years! Back story? Because his mind wandered, his teacher called him “addled” and hence Edison spent only 3 months in any kind of formal education. He learned by reading and doing. Reading “School of Natural Philosophy”, a scientific textbook by Richard Green Parker, and he read after “Cooper Union” (Fascinating Story – Click Here), a college started by a man who had less than a year of formal schooling. A science experiment left him partially deaf and he would struggle with this for life.

Is this all there is to his back story? Many have accomplished similar feats. I think the back story is deeper than his education, or obvious limitations, and he confirms this:

“My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.” (Click this link for a deeper story.)

We all have something we point back to that makes us who we reveal ourselves as today. What’s your back story?

Simply consider Jesus, God robed in flesh, growing up as a regular child in dusty and rural Bethlehem, Nazareth and Israel as a whole. No modern conveniences. Picking up the trade of his earthly father, Joseph. Struggling with life as an everyday child of the time. Tempted in all points of the law, just like every one else (Hebrews 4:15). He was not exempt. But then, adulthood and ministry begins. He returns to his home, and Matthew paints the picture like this.

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:53-56 ESV)

Who is this man? Where did he get this wisdom? Not around here! How can he do these mighty works? No clue! Isn’t he the son of the carpenter? Don’t we know his family?

As simple as this we conclude there is a back story we do not know. Every adult has become who they are, and hidden in their back story is probably a nugget that points to how they are who they are. We can look at every knucklehead and hero in history and probably find hints. We can look at every person and find a back story.

Again, what is your back story?

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